John Osborn

Tell me more…

Red Apple. [Creative Commons: Abhijit Tembhekar]

Tell’s famous shooting of the apple on Jemmy’s head was a brilliantly realised theatrical trick. [Creative Commons: Abhijit Tembhekar]

Having seen it at Sunday’s matinee, my thoughts about the Royal Opera’s new Guillaume Tell (production by Damiano Michieletto) will not rank amongst the more fulminating of the online debate. In short: musically stellar; visually interesting-tending-to-the-inert; dramatically stimulating. Notably, I didn’t find it – and that much-commented-upon sexual assault scene – particularly offensive.

I had expected to hate it. The way it was described conjured up the Royal Opera’s truly horrendous production of Rusalka, or the dull and pretentious Idomeneo. Both of those were in a league apart in terms of clumsy over-conceptual plot-handling and poor visuals. The atmosphere of Tell was well-established by the mud floor and general air of bleak oppression (however difficult it is to project a voice over so unreverberant a surface). On the night I had placed it in that miserable indefinably-somewhere-between-50s-and-70s period, but in fact it was set around World War 1, so my programme tells me. Chairs in abundance, against which much violence was wrought. Visible, hung strip-lighting as well. Baddies in combats wielding guns. It was not entirely cliché-free.  (more…)

Memories of the Barber

I’d better catch up quickly on Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Covent Garden the other day (er, week?).  I went on the Friday the 21st AND Monday 24th, which was the result of taking friends on the Monday and being seduced (later) by a stalls seat offer for the preceding Friday.

Row B of the stalls, relatively central, was an odd experience.  Acoustically not as revelatory as expected and, viewpoint-wise, alternately thrilling and neck-achingly inconvenient (especially for surtitles).  When the box-shaped set lifts at the end of Act 1 for the rolling coup-de-théatre, it was as though you were watching people perform opera on the roof of your house.  And the tickets were (I’m sorry to inform the marketing wonks at the ROH) through the ‘Danny Knows Best‘ initiative, that rather game but slightly clunky attempt to seduce reality-show junkies through the doors of the nation’s most venerable lyric theatre.   Ah, well this old Friend got a bit of a treat anyhow.  Claiming the free champagne in the Floral Hall was like day 1 of the Horrids’ sale, though…  You wouldn’t believe it, but the Amphi bar is a much more pleasant experience! (more…)